2012 Capstone Projects

Traditional Plant Knowledge and the Difficulties of Planting the Seeds of Such Knowledge in Contemporary Members of the Young Malian Generation
 Landy Kus
(Anthropology, 2012)

Among Bambara societies in contemporary Mali, the influences of globalization and rural-urban migration are resulting in an undervaluing and loss of traditional knowledge. This paper focuses on indigenous botanical knowledge, bringing attention to the role of Malian women as “reservoirs” of plant knowledge. I first address the various ways in which my older informants explained how they obtained botanical knowledge since much of the literature I reviewed does not specifically address the question of experiential and informal learning. I then address the key reasons – biomedicine, formal education, desire for wage-labor – why younger Malian generations do not possess this same knowledge.

Two Hundred Years of “Development”:
“High Modernism,” Water and People in South Sudan
Kevin Francis Boueri
(Anthropology and History, 2012)

Taking the emergent forms of developer involvement in South Sudan as a starting point, this study examines whether the development community have translated decades of scholarly critique into improved practice. To do so I compare the planning stages of two instances of “development” in South Sudan: colonial (Anglo-Egyptian) and post-colonial (contemporary). As the development community are involved in many sectors of South Sudanese society, I have narrowed my focus to instances of hydro-development, namely the Jonglei Canal (Anglo-Egyptian project) and the current push for agricultural expansion, which will require intensive irrigation schemes to reach desired outcomes. In this study I argue that while nearly two hundred years have passed since the onset of Anglo-Egyptian “development” in Southern Sudan, contemporary development actors in South Sudan hold the same “high modernist” biases which have in the past produced harmful and unintended consequences for affected populations.

Starving for the Forest:
Integrated Conservation and Food Security in Western Madagascar
 Leigh Bercaw

In conservation discourse Madagascar is often portrayed as an environmental battleground; over 80%  of its species are endemic and under direct threat from a booming indigenous Malagasy population. As the majority of Madagascar’s population are rural subsistence agriculturalists, conservation programs are faced with the paradox of preserving biodiversity without interrupting the livelihoods of the communities peripheral to protected areas.  The proposed solution to this problem is integrated conservation and development programs, which are designed to “translate” conservation principles to local populations and economically compensate them for land loss.  Unfortunately, local conceptions of moral land use and cultivation are not being re-translated into international conservation discourse. This thesis argues that this mis-translation results in parks that preserve biodiversity at the cost of local food security, or fail to protect biodiversity under the pressure of illegal forest use by the local populations.

My thesis is based on two months of research in villages within and bordering protected areas in Madagascar. Through participant observation and fifty-five ethnographic interviews of subsistence agriculturalists, local guides, and park managers, I attempted to understand the relationship between local communities and protected areas in Madagascar, and map the flow of resources across the constructed boundaries of national parks. While my thesis is argued through mini-ethnographies of three villages living under conservation programs, I use political ecology as a theoretical framework to bring their local experiences into national and international discourse over what to “save” in Madagascar and how best to save it.